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Ian Stone, historian | hghff
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Ian Stone, historian

to my regularly updated blogs...

The Restoration of Canterbury Cathedral

‘While Thomas lives you will have neither peace nor quiet nor see good days’. We know not who supposedly uttered these words to King Henry II (1154-89) about his troublesome archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket (d. 1170), but whoever it was, they had arguably more perspicacity than the two protagonists themselves. Henry was one of England’s greatest monarchs. He was a man filled with seemingly...

The Mayor, the King, and the Conditions of Loyalty

‘Lord, as long as you are willing to be a good king and lord to us, we will be faithful and devoted to you.’ With these words, on 17 March 1265, Thomas fitz Thomas, a draper and mayor of London, told the king of England to his face that the Londoners’ loyalty to him as their king was conditional on his proving himself as a good...

Samuel Pepys and the Plague of 1665

At the end of each month, Samuel Pepys, the great diarist, was wont to take stock of his affairs. Anyone who has read Pepys’s diary cannot help but be struck by his invariable cheerfulness on these occasions. His entry for 30 April 1665, 354 years ago today, was typical of the man: ‘thus I end the month: in great content as to my estate and...

The Thomas Sutton Memorial in Charterhouse Chapel

There is an extraordinary memorial to Thomas Sutton (1532-1611) in the Charterhouse Chapel at Smithfield in London. Standing twenty-five feet high, and thirteen feet wide, it dominates the north aisle of the Chapel. Sutton founded the Charterhouse in 1611 as both a school and as an almshouse and hospital for up to eighty inmates. While the school has moved to Surrey, the almshouse remains and its residents are...

10 February 1258 – King Henry III’s Short-lived Victory

In my previous blog, we saw King Henry III attempt to purge the opposition to his rule in London in 1258. He did this by sending royal officers to the city to enquire into the assessment of a tallage in 1255. These officers were initially frustrated as the leading men of London stood on custom and refused to cooperate with the inquiry. However, the royal officers...

3 February 1258 – King Henry III Moves Against his Opponents in London

On this day in 1258 a series of inquests began in the wards of London. Starting on Sunday 3 February and continuing for an entire week, thirty-six men from each ward of the medieval city answered questions, on oath, that were put to them by John Mansel, administrator and councillor to King Henry III of England (1216-1272). The king had sent Mansel to London on...

The Yeomen Curriers of Fleet Street

In this blog I discuss a document which was drawn up by some curriers in London in 1388-9. Curriers work with leather. They clean, scrape and stretch tanned leather to make it waterproof, strong and flexible. As part of this process they use oil, wax and a special knife, called a shave. The skill is ancient and curriers first appear as a trade organisation in...

The Five Skuldelev Ships at the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum

The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde was built in 1969 to house the five so-called 'Skuldelev' ships. In the late eleventh century, these ships were sunk in a channel at Skuldelev to block access to Roskilde in Denmark. Why the ships were sunk is unknown; perhaps to block attacks from the sea, perhaps to control and facilitate the collection of customs. Local fishermen had long known...

Edward Conder and the history of the Worshipful Company of Masons

On 12 January 1893, twenty-two members of the Court of Assistants of the Worshipful Company of Masons gathered at the Hotel Metropole in London. The final item on the agenda of this quarterly meeting concerned the Company’s records and the minutes of the meeting note that the Clerk of the Company, Mr R. L. Hunter, was authorized to ‘lend the records, books and documents of...

Religious life on the edge of the Roman Empire

The early history of Christianity in Britain is very obscure indeed. We have sources which tell us that there were Christians in Britain as early as the second century AD, but these are problematic texts and who exactly these Christians might have been is far from clear. The population of Roman Britain at that time may have numbered 3 to 4 million people and it...